Anyone who has played a bit of Counter-Strike probably knows the frustration of having a teammate bail on a match early on, leaving your team at a 4-on-5 disadvantage. The recently launched Counter-Strike 2 is trying to limit this problem by imposing a harsh new penalty for players who leave a match before it’s over. But that system is already drawing angry reactions from players who feel they’ve been punished unfairly for unintentional match departures.
In CS: GO, abandoning a competitive match early resulted in a “cooldown” period before you could join a new match. Those periods started at 30 minutes for the first offense and rose to a full week for a fourth offense (one offense was also expunged from the count every seven days).
That punishment system carried forward to the closed CS2 beta in recent months but was reportedly ineffective at slowing down extremely high match abandonment rates. A series of popular posts on the CS:GO subreddit last month asked for stronger punishments, complaining that “almost every single match now has one leaver… I get it, you haven’t played CS in years and you’re butthurt that you’re losing but you’re just wasting everyone else’s time if you leave.”
With the full public launch of C2 last week, Valve seems to have taken that complaint to heart. Leaving a match early now also gets a player a 1,000-point drop in the ELO rating used for competitive matchmaking. That’s a pretty significant penalty, considering players only gain about 100 points for winning a match (against similarly ranked opponents). Under the current system, it could take hours of play to rebuild the ranking loss resulting from a single abandoned match.
That kind of penalty might be an appropriate deterrent for players who would intentionally hurt their teammates’ experience by abandoning tough matches early. But some players are complaining that the ELO penalty also applies to matches abandoned for unintentional reasons, including the kind of game crashes that can be relatively common in a newly launched online game.
Solo players can also receive the ELO penalty if their random teammates vote to kick them for any reason—or even no reason at all. “[This system] gives way too much power to groups of trolls,” one Reddit commenter said of the ability for four committed players to dock a stranger teammate’s rating. “I just lost 1,000 [ELO points] because a teammate randomly decided to [team kill] me and start a vote kick,” another Redditor added. “They were just unhappy to be losing with bad matchmaking. Worked my ass off to get up to 9k+ and got tossed down to 7999.”
Then there are situations where players decide to leave because of bad behavior by their teammates. “Last match I was in, there was a duo on my team that decided to troll and grief our entire team just because I’m a girl. I abandoned because they were just holding us hostage at that point,” one Reddit user wrote. This player complained that there was no warning that an extra ELO penalty would be tacked on for this match abandonment. “I gladly accepted the 30 minute cooldown but even in casual or deathmatch you get warned that you lose XP points if you abandon, in premier you don’t and I’m not sure why,” the player wrote.
There may be other unintended consequences to the new penalty system, as some players are already contemplating using ELO penalties to easily create a “smurf account” with an artificially low ranking to get matched up with less-skilled players. Meanwhile, some CS2 players also report that remaining players in a 4-on-5 game aren’t allowed to vote to surrender even when the player disadvantage makes the match seem hopeless.
We’re still early in what will no doubt be a long life for competitive Counter-Strike 2, so Valve could definitely continue to adjust these penalties as time goes on. For now, though, the new system highlights the tough balancing act the company faces in trying to enforce good sportsmanship for randomly grouped teams in their online shooter.